HANOVER — The South Shore Chamber of Commerce and South Shore Economic Development Corporation briefed local business leaders on their South Shore 2030 housing strategy at a meeting on Tuesday.
South Shore 2030 is a development plan created by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and South Shore Economic Development Corporation. Attendees got a preview of a website promoting specific housing projects to help people visualize what type of housing the chamber says is needed. Specifically, it is supporting housing that’s denser and with a smaller footprint than traditional housing, that’s in a walkable community and/or has easy access to transit.
Peter Forman, president & CEO of South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said building such housing on the South Shore would attract young professionals who work in Boston, enable retiring baby boomers to downsize while staying in their communities, and provide more revenue for local businesses.
He said negative connotations of building new housing still lingers, with residents worrying about straining school systems and increasing traffic. But, he said, “these perceptions don’t hold up to scrutiny.”
Local school superintendents are largely in favor of creating more affordable housing stock, said Forman. Enrollment is down across the area, and resulting budget cuts can start a “downward spiral” that leads to declining school quality and makes towns less appealing to newcomers, which drives enrollment even lower, he said. And while it’s true that more housing means more traffic, residents can often overestimate how much of an increase can be expected, he said.
Local business leaders can play a role in turning public opinion in favor of constructing more housing, he said. That’s why the chamber will focus on education for local business owners and public officials as the first phase of their housing strategy.
State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, who attended the meeting, said he wants graduates of the region’s colleges and universities to stay and build careers and families in the area.
O’Connor said two of the biggest problems facing Massachusetts are the lack of affordable housing stock and the rising cost of health care.
The state is beholden to the federal government on health care, he said. “But when it comes to housing, we actually have the tools to assist.”